During my recent trip aboard the UnCruise ‘Legacy of Discovery’ on the S. S. Legacy, I would never have thought it was possible to weave together so many different experiences into one cohesive trip. I enjoyed comfortable accommodations, wonderful food, energizing excursions, and thoughtful presentations. Having lived in the Northwest for 13 years, I was not sure if I would be impressed with the sights on this trip. However, this trip afforded me a new appreciation for the landmarks of the Pacific Northwest. First, I have to mention the UnCruise meals. There were a variety of choices, (at least three per meal) and they were enough to satisfy even a rather particular palate. Many times, my fellow passengers and I had ‘half and half’ which meant we had a smaller portion of each selection. Often, it was so difficult to decide which one to try! For instance, one evening the menu options were balsamic glazed pork tenderloin with cherry chutney, seared black cod with grapefruit migonette, or lentil cakes with red curry sauce. Even though I used to be reluctant to try new foods, I like it now because and feel it is an integral part of the exploration experience. Additional helpings were always offered, and this was one of the times I seriously considered it. Some of the other food highlights included delicious morning muffins (and I am very particular about muffins – often I can easily pass on them), made to order omelets, afternoon cookies and fruit and cocktail hour with appetizers such as nectarine, pecan and goat cheese on a puff pastry. The desserts were remarkable and I splurged more than I planned. One example that I really enjoyed was blackberry cake with lemon sauce and lemon sorbet, because of the mix of flavors was delightful.
Surprising to me was the perspective gained by traveling on the river aboard a small expedition vessel. Seeing the scenery from the ship in the middle of the river and even different decks was so unique and impressive, as it was calming, relaxing, and exciting all at the same time. I think of it as similar to watching a fire – the scenery is ever changing, yet ever the same. You can watch it for quite a while without growing tired of it.
Additionally, the UnCruise crew was remarkable, it is not easy to be warm, accommodating, and make everyone comfortable – even with 76 passengers they exceeded my expectations. The open bridge policy was a favorite to many – and I availed myself of the captain’s wisdom several times. On one occasion I had the opportunity to ask Captain Jerod a question about the lights I saw on the shore. He explained that those are range markers, which are set beacons that assist in navigating to the main river channel. I didn’t expect to be wowed by going through the locks, as I have seen them many times. However, I found myself wanting to enjoy the many technical aspects of the locks, such as the different entries and exits as well as the different ways to tie onto the ballast based upon the river traffic.
Overall, there are many things to list as highlights – the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest we experienced throughout the trip, the simplicity of being able to go to different places without packing or unpacking each day, the many unique museums we experienced, the opportunity for wildlife spotting, and some of the special activities. My favorite activity was visiting Hell’s Canyon, which is the deepest gorge in North America and is a part of the Northwest that I had never seen before. The jet boat trip was truly a favorite activity for guests and was about as close to a perfect day as I have had.
Personally, the one word that sums up the most valuable part of the whole experience is: learning. I absolutely loved the storytelling with J.R. Spencer from the Nez Perce tribe, as I am fascinated by Native American culture. His presentation stood out to me because of his seamless combination of storytelling, cultural sharing, and stand-up comedy. We also had presentations each evening on a variety of topics: geology (including the great flood that shaped the rivers), Northwest Wines, The River that won the War, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Manhattan project, Native American history, and more.
My unexpected favorite presentation was by author Rex Ziak, who came onto the ship in Astoria, Oregon. My description of him is a cinematographer accidentally turned Lewis and Clark historian. He is a lifelong resident of Southwest Washington and asking himself a simple question changed his life. He wondered why, after it had taken Lewis and Clark a month prior to November 7, 1805 to travel quite a few miles, did it then take them another month after that date to travel many less miles? Personally, I was intrigued by the map he set up before he said a word to the audience. He described in thorough detail how geography and the dangerous Columbia River played such an important part in the history of their expedition. Following this part of his presentation, was his story of how he became an accidental historical expert that took over my imagination. I loved the fact that through learning the answers to one question, he created a new career path for himself. Ultimately, he became an expert on that one month time period, wrote a book, and has been instrumental in adding sites to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. His curiosity for life-long learning has made him a true celebrity in the Lewis and Clark world.
I enjoyed this trip for many reasons; a few of those being the food, the personal service, and the new perspective it gave me on this region. I also especially enjoyed learning more about Lewis and Clark. This was such a refreshing way to see many facets of the Pacific Northwest. The trip leaves from and returns to Portland, which is easy to reach, and the jet-lag is minimal with only a three hour time difference maximum from anywhere in the USA. If you want to learn more about this UnCruise journey, please let us know!